Alyson Leininger, Patient Care Volunteer, Children’s National HospitalWashington D.C. & Undergraduate Research Assistant, Interpersonal Relationships Lab

Major: PSYC

Minor: Human Development

Class Year: 2022





What was a typical week like in your internship position?

Children's National Hospital: I went to Children’s National Hospital once or a twice a weekend while I was an in-person volunteer. My volunteer title was “Patient Care Volunteer” and with that I had many duties. My main duty was to visit with the children and their families. When I visited the children, I would do a ton of activities such as playing with them, bringing them toys that they requested, watching movies, coloring and really anything to distract them from being in the hospital. I also made sure that I could be of any help to the family members of the patients. Many times, the family members would just want to take a walk to get some fresh air or take a shower or get some coffee and my job was to make sure that I watched over their child or loved one. Some of my other duties included delivering gifts and toys that were sent to the patients. I also organized the toy closet, and I would take note of any new patients, where they were staying and if they wanted a certain volunteer or person to come hang out with them.

Interpersonal Relationships Lab: During the typical week, I will read different literature that pertains to my research topic of interpersonal relationships in college students and optimism in college students. In addition to literature review, I will also meet with my research advisor to go over what I read in the literature and talk about study logistics and plans. There is also a bi-weekly lab meeting with all the other research assistants and in these meetings, we talk about our designated research projects and give each other tips on how we could improve. More recently I have been piloting my newly created Qualtrics study to get it ready for review from other lab members. Finally, I have been learning about the IRB approval process ad have been working on the IRB Application. 



What do you enjoy most about your current position?

Children's National Hospital: I honestly enjoyed everything about this position. Working with kids is my passion and I loved being able to hang out with them for a few hours every weekend. However, I think what I enjoyed most about this position was that while I was putting a smile on the patients’ faces, they were also putting a smile on mine. Volunteering never felt like a chore or something I had to do. I always wanted to do it and genuinely looked forward to the weekends. This position taught me how to be patient and kind and caring and it gave me skills I will always cherish. 

Interpersonal Relationships Lab: I enjoy the sense of independence I get from this position. In this position, I get to work on my own and I get to create my own research study based off of my interests. I also get to work with like-minded individuals in a psychology lab setting which has given me a glimpse of what I may be doing in graduate school. 


How did your coursework help you in your internship?

Children's National Hospital: One course that helped with my volunteer position was Child Development. While training to become a volunteer, we have to learn about different developmental milestones children reach and how those who are in a hospital environment may not reach them the same time as kids who are living at home in a more stable environment. My child development class helped me during my time volunteering as I was able to recognize how I can help the patients more than just what I learned while I was volunteering. I was also able to recognize milestones that the child may not have reached so I don’t ask their parents if they can do something or ask them if they can do something.

Interpersonal Relationships Lab: My coursework has helped with this position as it has given me a foundation of the basics of research. My coursework has also helped me as it has allowed me to narrow in on my interests so that I could chose a topic to research on. 



How did you locate your internship position?

Children's National Hospital: I located my volunteer position through UMD’s HPAO website. They have a bunch of volunteer opportunities on their website and I saw the description of this one and thought it would be perfect for me.

Interpersonal Relationships Lab: I located this position by looking the UMD PSYC listserv that gets sent out each day.


Advice for students:

Children's National Hospital: For this volunteering opportunity one thing I would say is to make sure you are comfortable with children who are vulnerable. These children are in a very vulnerable environment and they do need more help than the average child you may be babysitting. It is also important to consider whether or not you are comfortable being in a hospital setting. It can be hard to be in a hospital just due to the circumstances, so it is important to consider that before applying.

Interpersonal Relationships Lab: My advice would be to apply to multiple positions and apply to things that may be out of your comfort zone! I applied to 5 different research labs before I heard back from one. Additionally, it can seem daunting to do research, but it is such a rewarding and fun experience and there is a lot of support around you, so you are never alone.